By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions opened the night dropping two of their first three bouts on the mat, but once Penn State reached their fourth bout of the evening, there was no looking back.
Penn State's consistent wrestlers, Zain Retherford, Jason Nolf and Bo Nickal continued their undefeated seasons with bonus point victories leading the Nittany Lions to a 37-6 win against the Scarlet Knights.
Nick Suriano, who is also undefeated on the season, began the night with a 16-2 major decision over Brandon Paetzell, putting the Nittany Lions ahead 4-0. Penn State dropped its next two bouts by decision, including a close, but tough loss for No. 12 Jimmy Gulibon who lost to the sixth-ranked wrestler at 141 pounds, Anthony Ashnault.
"We were happy [Gulibon] fought the whole time," head coach Cael Sanderson said. "He got a little overaggressive in the first period and got countered in a couple positions. Ashnault is a tough kid, but we'll take the over aggressiveness any day over the opposite so I think Jimmy's attitude is good and he's going to keep plugging away."
With the heart of Penn State's lineup upcoming, Sanderson says he wasn't too worried when his team trailed 6-4.
"Well when you have Zain coming up that's a confidence booster," Sanderson said. "We lost a couple matches early, but sometimes it just depends on where the matchups are. I think Rutgers is a good team, they have some good wrestlers that were just in the same weight as some of our guys that are really good."
Penn State tallied six bonus point victories, including two pins from Retherford and Nickal, and three technical falls from Jason Nolf, Vincenzo Joseph and Nick Nevills.
Joseph, who won 19-3 has quietly risen to the No. 4 ranked wrestler at 165 pounds. Joseph is 10-1 this season.
"I think he's just improving overall," Sanderson said. "I think all positions, his finishes, his shots, his tie-ups, his snaps, he's getting better on top. He's not a guy that probably tried to wrestle on top a lot, but in college it makes a big difference in close matches. He's looking better and I think his confidence is continuing to improve. He's wrestling real well, he's scoring with a number of attacks, his defense is solid, so we're happy where Vincenzo is at."
With Penn State ahead 23-6, No. 2 Nickal faced No. 14 Nicholas Gravina. Gravina came out aggressive and physical, but that didn't seem to phase Nickal.
"I think [Nickal] kept his composure," Sanderson said. "He took his points when they were there. He probably could have fired off a couple shots earlier, but sometimes you kind of feel them out a little bit, I guess, and score when the time is right."
With an impressive move, Nickal was able to spin to a sitting up positing from bottom, then turn in with a cradle and lift Gravina up and slam him down, finishing the move off with a pin moments later.
"I had his leg and then I just kind of sat," Nickal said. "Then I picked him up and then I threw him down."
Nickal called it his "secret move" and said he developed it with Retherford, along with with the help of YouTube, and has been working on it for about a year-and-a-half.
Sanderson also enjoyed the spectacular move just as move as the sold out Rec Hall crowd did.
"I enjoyed it just like you guys did," Sanderson said. "That's wrestling."
To close out the night, Nick Nevills improved to 11-0, and is one of five undefeated Nittany Lions along with Suriano, Retherford, Nolf and Nickal. Nevills used nine takedowns with four near-fall points to win by technical fall.
"It's a lot more enjoyable to go out there and get takedowns rather than having some of the closer matches that I've had," Nevills said. "The coaches have just been stressing going out and being more offensive and getting the takedowns that I'm capable of getting. It was a nice match to go out there and open up more and to get going and to just listen to the coaches telling me to let the guy go and keep going out and getting after the guy. It was fun. If that's what I have to do it's not bad taking a tech fall for the team."
As he noted earlier this week, Nevills aims to keep the fans in their seats until the very end of each dual meet.